I don’t do windows

November 7th, 2005

But apparently, I will do stairs. A few months ago, I started looking for quotes on finishing our stairs. The first guy came highly recommended as a craftsman. He crafted up an estimate that could buy a very nice car. I was expecting a very nice hatchback from the late 80s. More reasonable quotes were obtained, but no one could start for at least three months. Being a Tech Chef and a certifiable do-it-myselfer, I decided that I could do stairs. David thinks this is a bad idea, although he’d rather I be building web apps. Here’s an early stage in the process:

All things considered, I’d rather be coding, too. Staining and four coats of polyurethane on 18 treads (300 pounds worth) and about a mile of hand rail and eight evil newels have made me think more than twice about giving up my day job. We joked about putting in an escalator and I’m wishing we’d given that more serious consideration now. Anyway, the wood looks beautiful and the stairs should be something else when they are done. Pity I’ll never let anyone walk on them.

Invisible music

October 3rd, 2005

What kind of nerd would I be if I didn’t put a multi-room A/V system in the house we’re building? During the foundation phase (oh so many moons ago) I saw a show on HGTV about an in-wall/in-ceiling speaker that was invisible. I didn’t catch the details, so I had to dig through thier website to find this article which pointed me to Stealth Acoustics.

The speakers are mounted on a frame with a rigid foam panel in front of the elements. The frame fits flush into a drywall cutout and screws directly to the framing material (it needs to fit between studs that are 16″ on center plus or minus a little). The gaps between speaker and drywall are taped and mudded just like any drywall joint (except keeping mud off the “don’t mud here” areas). Once sanded it can be painted and the product specs [PDF] show that the frequency response after four coats of latex paint are not diminished and even improve at some frequencies.

When installing, I didn’t trust my drywallers to finish them, so I cut OSB blanks to the same dimensions as the speakers and mounted them to the framing. The picture below shows the dining room with two blanks mounted near the ceiling:

I researched what cabling to run to the six pairs of speakers in the house. I studied the elaborate, high tech cableature (gag) and wasn’t that impressed. I’m an old school electrical engineer and I think that wire is wire, resistance is resistance, and I ended up using good old 14 gauge solid Romex 3 pair wire (14-3). Three pair wire includes a fourth conductor for ground, also 14 gauge, so one run of neatly sheathed cable from structured wiring closet to each pair of speakers did the trick. From the first speaker, I ran another short piece of 14-3 to the other speaker in the pair. Since I only used 12-3 cable for electrical wiring, the 14-3 stood out and made it easier to keep audio cable away from power cables. Once the speakers are connected and tested (you really wouldn’t want to have to muck with the wiring once they are in place and painted), they look like this:

I’ll provide more pictures as we progress. So how do they sound? It’s a little hard to tell in an empty house with no floor covering, so I’m going to withold my final judgement until later, but we’re happy to have music in the house and we certainly aren’t disappointed yet.